Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Sandwich Wish

Sean doesn’t know how to make a sandwich.

Ok, let me back up…

We were getting ready to go to an amusement park.  Now, for me, going to an amusement park is one step above going for my yearly gynecological exam as far as the fun meter goes.  Being flipped over, flung every which way and spun until I puke lost its childhood enthusiasm when, well… when I puked.  Try sneaking your brother’s white Member’s Only jacket back in the closet after that! 

Needless to say, preparing for a day that I take part in strictly due to my relationship as a parent is a bit daunting.

Watching the weather, finding a dog-sitter, packing sunscreen and extra clothes are all given responsibilities for the day.  However, a day at the amusement park to fill my children’s mouths is also exorbitantly expensive.  Thus, we brown bag it.

And this is where the sandwich making comes in.

I have clothes to pack, shoes to tie, and my purse-to-fanny-pack transformation to undertake.  I didn’t think I was asking the impossible when I said, “Sean, make your sandwich.”

“What’s a sandwich?”

You’re kidding me, right?  My son, the Boy Scout who has made and eaten many a sandwich on campouts, wants to know what a sandwich is.


“You know… the thing you eat on campouts… with two pieces of bread and ham.”

“No, I don’t.”

Hoping that this was merely his early morning attempt at humor, I brushed it off and told him to go make it.

“Um, Mom.  What do I do?”

Crap, I don’t think he’s joking.

“OK, Sean.  First you go in the freezer and get the bread out.”

As Sean searched for the loaf, I entertained the idea of chucking the entire day out the window and going back to bed. 

“Then you open the fridge and get the ham on the shelf.”

Sean opens the drawer in the fridge.

“No, on the shelf.”

He again goes for the drawer.

My thought?  Oh, this is going to be painful. 

Step by agonizing step, as if we were literally going through one of those exercises in school where you write out every detail of opening a jar of peanut butter, we made our way towards the ultimate goal of stacking two slices of ham in between two slices of bread.

Eventually our precious creation was sealed in a bag and placed in the cooler.

I wondered all morning what type of culinary amnesia had come over my son.  Was it something that he wasn’t used to?  Was it because we weren’t out in the woods where it was our only sustenance?

Crazy as it may sound, could it even be the new air freshener that I installed in his room and the “adrenaline rush” that he claims to get from it that is causing this newfound absence of knowledge?

As I say so many times…. I don’t know.

I put it to the back of my mind and enjoyed the beginning part of the day as much as I could.  Fortunately, Ashley is too young to ride most of harrowing attractions.  Thus, I was able to happily keep my feet on the ground up until early afternoon.

But lunch lingered in the future.

No worries.  He’ll be hungry.  Whatever aversion he had will be overcome by a starving teenager.

After getting our hand stamped for re-entry and a leisurely walk to Tweety Row 32 to find the mini-minivan, we settled in for the quiet comfort of air conditioning, padded seats and the contents of the cooler.

Roast beef?  Check.  Peanut butter?  Check.  Bologna?  Check.

Ham?   Ham?

“Do I have to?”

“Yes, Sean.  That’s the only thing you have for lunch.”

He took a bite.  Maybe two.

Whatever was stuck in his head from earlier was back in full force.  It could have been the bread.  It could have been the ham.  It could have been the temperature of the sandwich.  Or was it the fact that it was made with clean hands on a clean countertop instead of with fingers that had deep inset dirt that comes only from being out in the woods?

I don’t know.

The resealed bag was tossed aside, never quite making it back into the cooler.  Luckily, it was found before becoming something that smelled worst than teenage funk.

The ever-present granola bars were retrieved and consumed. 

Life was back in balance.

Will I attempt the sandwich thing again?  Definitely.

Will Sean eat it?

You all know that answer as well as I do.

I simply don’t know…but I wish I did.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Watch's Watchman

Hi everyone and welcome to back.

I’ve been away for several weeks.  Nothing catastrophic happened.  No crisis occurred.

It was just Life…

As parents, we all know we can get overwhelmed with all the schedules, the responsibilities, and the decisions that we have to make every day for our children.

However, as a parent of a special needs child or children, we can easily feel crushed beneath all of that weight.

These past weeks have been my time for not only bearing the load of the rock, but hiding beneath it as well.

It wasn’t the domain meetings, the yelling, the watch, the IEP, or even the funk that emanates from Sean’s room.

It was everything.

And I had to take what little bit of me that was left over, the little glimmer that still existed inside of me, and hide it away.

I was sick of sharing.  I was sick of doing.  I was sick of autism.  I was sick of the everything that comes with Life.

But I have some very dear friends that have poked and prodded and laughed me out of my hiding place. 

Thus, here I am.

The last time I wrote, I talked about becoming the mom that yells.  I ended the story with a cliffhanger about Sean’s watch.

That watch served as a daily reminder that I had left things unfinished.

So here’s the end you’ve so greatly anticipated….

You know how Sean loves to fidget.  And you also know how he loves to break things along the way.

I try my best to keep objects from him that are meaningful.  My first stethoscope from college and my favourite watch…. Well, I was too late for them.

Carissa’s things… Ashley’s toys…. They all have found their way eventually into Sean’s mouth.


And when he’s not chewing on things, he’s instead wrapping and tying and twisting them into unimaginable messes.

If you remember way back when, I gave Sean a watch – my watch – during the latter part of the school year in order to time himself while walking from class to class.  Otherwise, the little bugger would run… or “fast walk” as he would claim.

I don’t know what happened to my watch.  Was it sucked on?  Were the buttons played with so much that they simply needed to say, “Stop!  I will no longer work for you.”

Either way, my watch… my beloved watch… bit the big one.  It became yet another one of the sacrifices a mother makes for her son.

So off to Walmart or Meijer or Target or some other superstore I went this summer to buy school supplies and find the ultimate, hardy watch for under $20.

Why not spend more? 

In my heart, I knew this new piece of technology would sadly meet its demise as well. 

The only question was when….

Twenty days, my friends.  Twenty days.

It was at Carissa’s first cross country meet, standing in a field filled with other parents, when I noticed the watch was missing from my son’s wrist.

I prayed for strength to deal with the unknown as I formed the words, “Sean, where’s your watch?”

I was pleasantly surprised when he pulled it out of his pocket and said, “Here.”

And then I noticed the band.  Mangled.  Ripped.

Those fingers, made strong from fidgeting for years, had claimed yet another victim.

“Sean!”  I yelled and didn’t care who heard me. “What the hell did you do to your watch?”

“Mom, it was like that.  It was already broken.”

Is it human nature that when something is broken a bit, people are compelled to obliterate it?

“Sean, I am not buying you another watch.  We’re just going to have to figure something out.” 

I had visions of duct tape swimming in my head.

I was pissed.  I was livid.

And it wasn’t over some stupid $20 watch.

It was because it was yet another thing….another thing that was destroyed or chewed on or somehow altered by my son’s autism.

It’s the stethoscope, the watch, the collar on his shirt, the laminate on his bed, the other watch, the headphones, the earbuds, the straws, the fidget toys that were supposed to be indestructible, the exercise bands, the laces on his shoes… it’s everything.

And you say to yourself, “Why?”

Why bother buying stuff?  Why can’t he fidget with the things he’s supposed to?  Why do I feel like I have to constantly monitor what’s in his space or in his mouth?

Why is that my job?

The answer is simple.

It’s because I’m his mom and that’s what I’m supposed to do. 

While other moms are pressed into service to monitor their child’s emails and texts, I monitor the next thing that Sean will fidget with.

Considering the alterative, maybe my job’s not so bad after all….

They are, in the end, only things.  And if they keep him from tearing at his skin, I guess they are all worth it.

But sometimes, I do wish…

I would never want to change my son… change who he is.

But I would like, just for awhile, to be able to keep a watch in perfect working order for more than a month.